Cornell men’s basketball pulls away from Harvard in the second half to remain unbeaten in Ivy League play

After hard-fought wins for both teams on Friday night, Cornell men’s basketball looked to use its depth, while Harvard hoped its physical defense would be the difference in the second night of the opening weekend of back-to-back contests.

While the two teams slugged it out in the first half, the Big Red’s relentless roster wore down the Crimson over the final 20 minutes and came away with an 89-76 win in front of an Alumni Night crowd that featured NCAA president and Ivy Basketball Legend Charlie Baker.

The victory, which kept Cornell (17-3, 6-0 Ivy) tied for first place in the Ancient Eight with Yale, was the team’s seventh in a row and matches the program’s best start to conference play since the Sweet 16 team of 2009-10.

Meanwhile, Harvard (11-8, 2-4) finished the weekend tied for fourth place with Brown and Columbia. 

The teams went back-and-forth over the first twenty minutes with nine lead changes and two ties.

The Big Red eventually opened up a nine-point lead, 36-27, with 3:30 left on the clock, but the Crimson used a 6-0 run over the next ninety seconds to make a three-point game.

By time the first half ended, Cornell was still up by a long-range shot, 38-35.

Harvard controlled the inside in the first half, outrebounding the Big Red by 10 (23-13) and holding the nation’s top shooting two-point team 14% under its season-long success rate. It also forced Cornell’s top player Chris Manon to the bench for the last 10-plus minutes with two quick fouls.

Unfortunately for the hosts, Cornell, which typically takes thirty triples a game, made seven triples and shot 39% from downtown.

The Big Red jumped out to a ten-point lead, 45-35, in the first 90 seconds of the second half and stretched its advantage to 15, 60-45, after a Cooper Noard three-ball from the left elbow at the 10:47 mark.

Harvard rebounded with a 7-0 run, punctuated by a Xavier Nesbitt three-ball, to cut the Cornell lead to eight a minute later, and a Louis Lesmond triple from the right elbow made it a seven-point game, 66-59, with 7:06 to go.

Junior forward Guy Ragland Jr. hit a layup over the smaller Nesbitt on the next possession and followed that with an old-fashioned three-point play to up the Big Red advantage to 12.

Harvard got the deficit down to 10 with under five minutes left in regulation, but back-to-back slam dunk buckets by Manon stretched the lead to 14 and put the game away for Cornell.

In the second half, the Big Red upped its two-point shooting with a 76% effort (13-for-17) to go along with a 40% (4-for-10) rate from three. Harvard typically wears teams down, but Cornell was unfazed by Harvard’s physicality, shooting 93% (13-for-14) from the charity stripe and outrebounding the Crimson by eight (16-8).

While the Crimson shot an equally impressive 75% (12-for-16) from inside the arc and 33% (3-for-9) from deep during the latter 20 minutes, it was the team that struggled late at the line and could only make 57% (8-for-14).

Cornell, which had nine players with more than 11 minutes of gametime, had five double-digit scorers.

Isaiah Gray led the way for the victors with 17 points, while Ragland Jr., AK Okereke, Manon and Sean Hansen added 16, 15, 13 and 10 points, respectively.

Harvard’s Malik Mack finished with a game-high 19 points with Lesmond, Chisolm Okpara and Thomas Batties III each totaling 10 points. 

Both teams have a week to prepare for their next games, with Brian Earl’s Big Red traveling to Yale (15-6, 6-0 Ivy) for a first-place showdown and Tommy Amaker’s Crimson welcoming Dartmouth, which sits in a tie for seventh place (5-14, 1-4).

1 thought on “Cornell men’s basketball pulls away from Harvard in the second half to remain unbeaten in Ivy League play”

  1. The Big Red made all alumni proud with by far their best game of the year (even better than the Princeton one, since that was at home), and that was without their best outside shooter Keller Boothby (injured in prior game) and their star guard Isaiah Gray playing with an injured heel yet winding up as the leading scorer.Just a great team effort-lets hope they can keep up this dream season.

Comments are closed.